June 29, 2008

Micronauts Annual #1 [1979]

The Micronauts were a toyline that spawned a surprisingly long-running Marvel comic. Steve Ditko teamed up with writer Bill Mantlo for a trio of issues from 1979 to 1982, as well as several stories featuring the Captain Universe concept, which spins out of events in the comic. Ditko's works on the title first in this annual, which has three short stories telling some of the backstory of the main characters, I gather leading directly to the early issues of the regular series.  I don't think I ever read a Micronauts story other than those by Ditko, but since this one goes back to the beginning, and Mantlo provides the needed exposition, it reads pretty well.

Each of the three stories is 11 pages, including an introductory splash page featuring the narrator, "Time Traveler, emissary of the Enigma Force".  The first story is "Timestream", and features explorer Arcturus Rann and his robot companion Biotron on the final day of their 1000 year exploration of the Microverse, when they encounter a long-dead world in the Force Nexus with a single resident, the armoured Galactic Defender.  I'm sure all that makes sense to someone.  Anyway, the point is that Ditko's art is well suited to this story, with lots of weird space scenes, alien landscapes and some especially good work on the Galactic Defender character, who rapidly ages once his helmet is shattered.

The previous story ends with Rann heading back to Homeworld, where the next story takes place.  "Coup" follows the royal family of Homeworld, and lays out some of the events that lead to Baron Karza successfully executing the coup of the title, killing the king and queen, sending their children Mari and Argon on the run. The final story, "Arena of Death" follows two prisoners who had a cameo in the previous story, Price Acroyear and Bug, as they're forced to fight various beasts in an arena for the amusement of Baron Karza. Ditko does a good job with this combination sci-fi/fantasy milieu, and his style works well with the characters, who are pretty well designed for a bunch of toys.

Ditko also does a 2-page spread of the characters in the regular series, including Captain Universe, and plugging and upcoming appearance by the Fantastic Four and their old villain Psychoman, and does the cover for the issue. This is a surprisingly entertaining comic for something called MICRONAUTS ANNUAL #1, with 36 pages of quality Ditko pencils and inks.  The introductory splash pages are especially well designed.

1 comment:

  1. This was my first introduction to Ditko when I was a kid! It made a fan of me.

    Great blog.



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